Tomato, Rosemary and Lentil Soup

Today was one of those (typical?) New Zealand days that begins as one season and finishes as another. We left our house in an orchard in Whangerai in the Northland region to head to Pathia in the Bay of Islands. I remarked to my wife just how warm the day was as I gazed out over the sun beating down on the avocado trees and planned on making a salad with the avocado windfalls we had gathered and some other stuff we planned to pick up from one of the numerous fruit and vegetable stalls that dot the sides of most of new Zealand’s roads. Stopping off as planned, I bought some great heirloom tomatoes, potatoes and some great looking rosemary which was a steal at 50c for a nice sized bunch. The weather was still great, I guess around 26C and not a cloud in the sky.

Cut forward an hour and we arrived at our new holiday house in Paihia. Everything was great with the place, except the weather had changed, it was now blowing a gakle, grey skies and probably nearer 10C than 15C – not really salad weather I thought as I watched my wife gamely pulleingbags from the car and chasing colouring books blown around by the strengthening wind.

It really felt like an autumn evening, similar to some northern hemisphere bonfire nights of my childhood. Nothing works better in this weather than homemade soup, especially if you have some stock you have made yourself to give a depth of flavour that canned soup can only dream of.

I used the tomatoes, rosemary and onions I had bought that morning and added some lentils found in the holiday houses store cupboard.

Served with some buttery toast, the cold was soon banished and we were ready to fight another day – summer will probably return in a few hours (and go again a few more after that…).

Serves – 4-6

Ingredients

500g of really ripe tomatoes – skin them if you like (or a can of plum tomatoes)
750ml or so good quality chicken stock (or use vegetable stock for those who prefer/insist!)
1 cup red lentils
1 large onion, finely diced
4 whole cloves garlic
30g butter
3 or 4 sprigs rosemary
2 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Dollop of soured cream to serve

Method

1) Melt butter in a large pan over a low heat and gently sweat the chopped onions and garlic cloves until the onions are soft and transparent. Keep the lid on the pan. If it looks like things are going to burn, add a half ladle full of stock and put lid back on.
2) Add cup of lentils and stir around so they get covered in the buttery onion mixture.
3) Raise the heat to medium and chuck in a ladle or two of stock. Stir around until the lentils have absorbed the liquid.
4) Add the tomatoes and stir until they have broken up and things are bubbling. If things look like they are burning, add a ladle of stock.
5) Add paprika and rosemary and stir around.
6) Add the rest of the stock and stir occasionally until pan boils.
7) turn down heat slightly and simmer with lid on for around 30 minutes until lentils are tender and consistency is that of a nice thick broth.
8) Remove sprigs of rosemary and garlic cloves from pan and taste.
9) Add salt and pepper to your preference and serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream and buttery toast.

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Three Cheese and Leek Souffle

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What do you do when you see two foot long leeks on sale for $3 the pair?

I buy 4 of them and after using leeks in all sorts of ways, I thought I would try a souffle. We were staying in a rented ‘batch’ in Gisborne, Eastern Cape, New Zealand with some friends and their kids at the time, so the meal had to suit a range of tastes and be prepared and cooked quickly.

Who can resist melty cheese, and who can resist something fluffy – not us…

Serves: 6

Ingredients

75g butter + a little for greasing
1 large leek, chopped finely
75g plain flour
2 tsps English mustard
300ml or so milk
50g grated Cheddar cheese
50g finely grated Parmesan cheese
50g grated jarlsberg cheese
4 organic eggs, yolk and white seperated
Salt and ground black pepper

Method

1) Heat the oven to 200°C.
2) Melt the butter in a large saucepan. 3) Add the chopped leeks and cook gently until the leeks are soft but not brown.
4) Stir in the flour and mustard and cook for a minute gently
5) Add the milk a little at a time stirring thoroughly until you have a thick white sauce.
6) Add the egg yolks and cheeses and stir until melted.
7) In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until really stiff.
8) Using a metal spoon, stir 2 tbsp of the egg white into the soufflé base to loosen the mix. Carefully fold in remaining egg whites in two parts. Be very gentle and try to retain as much volume as possible.
9) Lightly grease 6 individual ramekin dishes with a little butter.
10) Gently spoon the mixture into the dishes filling nearly to the top. Place the ramekins onto a baking sheet and cook in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the souffles are golden and risen.
Serve immediately with a green salad and a nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Be quick though, the souffle will sink before the wine has even been half drunk.

Lime and Pepper Crumbed Snapper

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I have known my friend Ian for getting on for thirty years now. We went to school together and stayed in contact ever since, I was best man at his wedding and I returned the ‘favour(?!)’ when I got married.

He emigrated to New Zealand around the same time that we were moving to Sydney, so over the course of the last 6 or so years and 3 children between us later, we have seen each other relatively frequently.

Ian has bought a kayak which spends most of the time in his garage or on the roof of his car (impresses the ladies apparently).

He also bought some fishing lines on the assumption that he could catch his supper whilst paddling around.

Yesterday, I received an MMS which had feet and fish in them. The excitement was palpable, after 27 outings, Ian had caught a fish (or two!) but alas, did not have a clue how to cook them.

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So being the great mate, I rushed to the supermarket and bought my own snapper so I could create a simple recipe for him to wow the family with (Ian is a better kayaker than chef, in fact is probably better at telling jokes(!) than cooking).

The finished dish is deliciously simple and the light citrus notes and the warmth of the pepper showcase beautiful fresh new Zealand snapper.

I served it with a homemade tartare sauce and a green salad. Simple and delicious.

Serves: 4 as a main and 6 as an entreé

Ingredients

Around 500-750g fresh snapper (would work with any good white fish), skinless and boneless.
Zest from 4 limes
6 slices of bread (stale is fine)
2 Tbsp black pepper
1-2 beaten eggs
100g plain flour
Rice bran oil for frying

To serve: homemade tartare sauce and fresh green salad

Method

1) Break up bread slices and place in a baking tray.
2) Put tray in a 100c oven for an hour or so until bread is dried through.
3) Put bread in a food processor and pulse until you have breadcrumbs.
4) Chuck in pepper and lime zest and blitz for 5 seconds.
5) Pour breadcrumbs back into baking tray.
6) The next stage is key to prepare well because once you start, things get messy and happen quickly! You are going to set up a production line with, from left to right – small baking tray of flour, Bowl of beaten egg, tray of breadcrumbs, large frying pan on hob, plate with kitchen paper to drain cooked fish.
7) Heat a scant 1cm depth of oil over a medium heat. It has reached temperature when a cube if bread sizzles gently in it.
8) Dip fish fillet in flour, then shake, then in egg, then roll in breadcrumbs. Shake off loose crumbs.
9) Gently place crumbed fish in hot oil and cook each side for around 2 minutes until golden.
10) Drain on kitchen paper
11) Serve with tartare sauce and green salad.

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Ginger, Soy & Sesame Tuna Salad – A light lunch on a cold day…

Even though ummer is a long way off in the northern hemisphere, I am beginning to miss the flavours of warmer times.  I miss the frssh flavours and raw foods that form the majoirity of my meals in summertime – still, not long until I head for the southern hemisphere to feel the kiss of the sun once more.

I am currently in a wet and wild northern Brittany and have got a nice Breton Beef stew slow cooking for dinner tonight – my logic is it will be operfext after an afternoon braving the elements.  Before this though, we need lunch and I want something light that gives us not feeling too full and bloated and stops us leaving the house.  A fresh tuna salad seems just the ticket.  A second motive is to leave some room to pick up somr nice Breton crepes as a mid afternoon snack.

This was something quick and easy I knocked up earlier to share and turned out combining  crisp leaves, creamy avocado and tomato with flash cooked medium rare tuna, bacon lardons and some alltogether more Asian influences…

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

1 or 2 small fresh tuna steaks
100g bacon lardons or chopped smoked streaky bacon
3 spring onions
1 head of romaine lettuce
Handful of good watercress
Bunch of cherry tomatoes halved
1 avocado chopped roughly
Teaspoon of honey
3 teaspoons of soy sauce
Some pickled ginger chopped finely
Shake or two of Tabasco sauce
Juice from 1 lime
Glug of walnut oil and few teaspoons of sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds

Method

1. Chop tomatoes and avocado and set aside. Place Salad leaves in a bowl.
2. Chop spring onions finely.
3. Fry lardons in a dry pan over a medium heat until browned then add spring onions and stir fry for a minute.
4. Set bacon and onion mixture aside and flash fry tuna in the oil left in the pan for a minute each side. If you don’t like rare tuna (you are probably mad, but there you go!) then cook for longer.
5. Remove tuna from pan and cut into nice long slices.
6. To make the dressing, put pan back on heat and chuck in soy sauce, lime juice, honey, pickled ginger, walnut & sesame oil and muddle the whole lot around in the pan for 30 seconds then take off the heat.
7. Throw the tuna, tomatoes, avocado and bacon/onion together with the salad leaves and toss around in the salad bowl.
8. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and sprinkle with sesame seeds

Scallop with Chorizo

Some friends (you know who you are…) asked us around for dinner last weekend. They had just spent a bomb on putting in a new kitchen with loads of gadgets and wanted to show it off. The friends are regulars attending other people’s dinner parties, but have never really had people round for proper grown up type dinners. They asked me if I could suggest a recipe or two. This quickly turned into me preparing and cooking most of the food and very nearly shopping for it(!). Fortunately enough, they are old friends and can get away with a bit of cheek. Anyway, they forgot to buy rocket for my earlier recipe on scallops with chorizo and with the other guests arrived and hungry, I had to quickly improvise a new recipe. I have to say I think the results were even better than the original recipe and it certainly looked a stunning creation! Note: if you wish to economize, the dish will also work with 12 instead of 18 scallops. 🙂

Serves: 6 as a starter

Ingredients

18 queen or king scallops, as fresh as you can possibly get them with roe removed

Around 450g of whole chorizo

250g of frozen petit pois

2 tsp ground cumin

Bunch fresh coriander

75g butter

125ml of marsala wine or sherry

Salt and pepper

Method

1. Place peas in a pan of fast boiling salted water and boil for 3 minutes.

2. Drain water and add butter, cumin and 80% of coriander in pan.

3. Using a stick blender, blitz everything until it is a vibrant green purée. Taste and season if necessary.

4. Get your plates ready and lined up and place 3-4 Tbsp of the pea mixture on the centre of each of them.

5. Pick over the scallops and if there is any of the tough muscle that connects them to the shell, chop it out. Give them a grind of pepper and set aside.

6. Cut the chorizo into medium thick slices.

7. Heat the pan over a medium to high heat and have the lemon, Marsala, chorizo and scallops near to you as the dish really does cook in a flash…

8. Place the chorizo slices in the dry pan and cook them until they are nicely browned on each side. They should release plenty of spicy orange oil which you will use to cook the scallops – don’t throw it away.

9. Take the chorizo out of the pan with a slotted spoon or fish slice and put in a bowl.

10. Put the scallops in the hot chorizo oil pan and fry for about 1 minute each side – avoid overcooking! The oil will really spit when the cold scallops hit it, so take care.

11. Take the scallops out and with a few chorizo rounds, place three on top of each pea purée.

12. Keep the pan on the heat and place Marsala wine in with what’s left of the scallop chorizo oil. Mix it around briefly to deglaze the pan and then pour a little of this liquor over each of the scallop & chorizo plates. Give a season of salt and pepper, a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil to each plate and serve immediately.

Accompany this with a nice, really cold bottle of new Zealand Pinot Gris or dry riesling.

Homemade Dairy Free Chicken Pate

How do you get a child to up her iron intake?  You can try talking the benefits of eating red meat and green leafy vegetables to a 2 year old, but playing with Peppa Pig and hide and seek can prove a distraction to my lecture.

Having taken my daughter to see her paediatrician recently, I was posed the challenge to get her to eat more iron rich food.  All the common sources were either not on her list of favourite foods or her allergies meant the food was off limits.  Eventually, we got to pate, but the doctor quickly remembered that it contained dairy when bought from the supermarket.

I had made some pate before and remembered the vast quantities of butter that were key to getting the flavour and texture right, but thought that I would try and re-create without the evil butter.

I took inspiration from stories told to me by my grandmother of having to cook during the war when all her usual ingredients were either unavailable or in short supply.  Tales of ‘apricot’ jam made with carrots and almond flavour came to mind and hard, cheap margarine instead of butter.

I struggled to find hard margarine in the supermarket, it was right in the bottom of the cold section looking slightly embarrassed next to healthy, low fat spreads and dairy, spreadable soft butter-like things.  It was surprisingly cheap and behaved for all intents and pruposes exactly like butter in this recipe – I’d use it again!

The finished pate was gorgeously smooth, deliciously savoury and went well with oatcakes or gluten free toast.  Make sure you have extra available as everybody always seems to want a little more to spread…

Serves: makes a small loaf tin half full

Ingredients

250g of duck or chicken livers (frozen are fine)

250g block of hard margarine (don’t even bother if it is soft, spreadable in a plastic tub)

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic (lazy garlic pickled in vinegar works very well)

A few fresh herbs (bay leaves, thyme or sage)

Salt and pepper

Method

1)Drain livers in a sieve above a bowl for 5 minutes to remove excess blood.  Pat livers dry and remove any ‘nasty’ bits with a small sharp knife.

2)Melt around 30g of margarine in a pan on a medium to low heat and soften the shallots in this for around 7 or 8 minutes. Do not let the shallots brown.

3)Add the garlic and cook for a further 3 or 4 minutes.

4) In a small frying pan, add 30g of margarine and get really hot.

5)Add the livers to the pan and fry for around 1 minute each side – the livers should still be just pink in the middle.

6)Melt the remaining margarine in a seperate pan (yes, I know you need 3 pans here…).

7)Add the shallot/garlic/margarine mixture and the livers to a food processor and blitz the mixture fast until it is a puree.

8)With the processor running on a slow to medium speed add the melted margarine in a steady trickle so that it combines with the liver/shallot puree.

9)When the puree looks glossy, stop adding and taste.  Add salt and pepper to get the flavour right.  there should be some melted margarine left – you will need it to add at the end.

10)Line a small loaf tin with cling-film and pour in the pate mixture.  Make sure the mixture is level in the tin.

11)Place your fresh herbs over the top of the pate and pour on a layer of melted margarine over the pate and herbs.

12)Put in the fridge for at least 8 hours.

13) Turn out pate onto a plate, remove film and slice the pate. Serve with warm toast, brioche or crackers and some fresh tomatoes and cucimber for a light lunch or starter.

***quick note – thanks to #3chooks for the feedback, I listened!